From job mobility barriers to more women at work: the WM People HR round-up

This week’s WM People HR round-up covers everything from a new report covering hybrid working and job mobility barriers to the latest ONS figures on the increasing number of women in the workplace.

African american startup employee working from home gesturing in video conference with colleagues at desk


Hybrid working stabilises

The number of jobs offering remote and hybrid working has stabilised at around 20% of UK roles since the pandemic, according to a report by the Competition and Markets Authority.

It found that hybrid jobs are more common in geographical areas with a very wide range of employers, such as London, which are also associated with higher wages.

The report also found that ‘non-compete’ clauses, which stop employees from working for a competitor for a set amount of time after their employment ends, impact around 30% of UK workers. They are more common in managerial and scientific occupations, but the CMA says they are found across all occupations and industries – including retail, education and food services where it estimates that around 20% of workers have non-compete clauses in their contracts –  and across the whole income distribution. One reason firms might require non-compete agreements is to protect investments they make in developing workers. The report says that, on average, workers with a non-compete agreement are slightly more likely than those without to receive formal on-the-job training, but not other forms of training. However, it states that non-competes are still common for workers and firms even where training tends to be less common.

It says about 24% of surveyed workers with a non-compete clause believe it has made it harder for them to leave their current employer to join a competitor.

The CMA warns that the prevalence of such contracts is a barrier to job switching across the economy and could harm productivity.

The report also notes that performance-related pay  is associated with higher average wages, and more unequal wages within a firm. For firms with union representation, however, the difference in wage inequality between performance pay and standardised pay disappears.

Manager loses work from home tribunal

A senior manager at the Financial Conduct Authority has lost her employment tribunal case to work from home full time.

The tribunal heard that the manager had submitted a claim for her remote working to be made permanent under flexible working legislation in 2023, arguing that her work had not suffered as a result of working remotely. The FCA refused the request. It had enforced a two days a week in the office policy. It argued that approving her request “could have a detrimental impact on performance or quality of output, as you will not attend face-to-face training sessions, departmental away days/meetings and you will not be able to provide face-to-face training or coaching to team members or new joiners”.

It also mentioned her ability to input into management strategy meetings and be involved in in-person collaboration. On appeal she was told that her request had to take into account the impact on those she managed.

At the tribunal hearing the FCA listed aspects of the woman’s work which it said would be impacted. They included: meeting and welcoming new staff; internal training, supervision and department needs where a line manager has a visible presence; attendance at in-person events, conferences and planning meetings; and attendance at weekly ‘cascade’ meetings.

The judge found that the FCA had considered the employee’s request rather than just blanket refusing it. She acknowledged that this was a difficult area, but said: “In my judgment at the moment there is no right to require an employer to permit that an employee works exclusively remotely but, as is engaged in this case, there is a right that an employer considers such a request in accordance with the statutory scheme”.

She added that technology is not yet sufficient to replicate the quick fire exchanges that take place in in-person planning and training events and that remote working limits a person’s ability to observe and respond to the type of non-verbal communication which may be essential for senior managers.

Meanwhile, another employment tribunal found that a woman had been discriminated against when she was removed from a work Whatsapp group while on maternity leave on the grounds that it was isolating and could be viewed as less favourable treatment. The firm had tried to argue that there was no reason for her to have access while she was not at work.

UK lags on female representation at CEO level in FTSE 100

The UK’s leading companies will take 117 years to reach global parity at CEO level most, higher than many other comparable countries, according to leadership advisory firm Russell Reynolds Associates.

It says that in the UK this is in part driven by the number of women CEOs leaving their posts. The FTSE 100 saw women CEOs account for almost a quarter (23%) of departures, while CEO appointments continued to overwhelmingly go to men (87%) in 2023.

The Russell Reynolds Associates’ 2023 Global CEO Turnover report analyses the trends driving CEO appointments and departures over the past year across 12 national and international stock markets.

The report paints a mixed picture of global efforts to ensure more women CEOs lead the world’s top businesses. For instance, at the current rate of change the S&P 500 in the US finds itself 22 years ahead of the global average of 81 years while the FTSE 100 lags considerably at 117 years.

Read more here.

Fears over lack of childcare places for expanded offer

Local authorities across England are worried they will not have sufficient childcare places to meet parental demand for places for two year olds when the offer expands to nine month olds in September, according to new research published by Coram Family and Childcare.

Whilst 60% of local authorities are ‘confident’ or ‘very confident’ that there will be enough places to meet demand for the April 2024 expansion (15 free hours for two-year-olds), just 27% of local authorities say the same about the expansion from September 2024 (15 free hours from nine months), and this falls to just 12% for the September 2025 expansion (30 hours from nine months).

For many a key problem is staffing, particularly for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). A report in today’s Times says the Early Education and Childcare Coalition estimates up to 50,000 new nursery staff and childminders will have to be recruited this year if ministers are to meet their pledges over the April expansion.

Meanwhile, the Government has announced a workaround to address technical problems parents were having accessing the two year old offer due to start in April.

Read more here.

Aviva tops FTSE 100 family-friendly study

Insurance company Aviva has the best parental leave and reproductive health policies in the FTSE100, according to a new study, with JD Sports and Coca-Cola scoring the lowest.

The study by PR agency Lem-uhn analyses updated maternity, paternity and adoption leave policies currently offered by FTSE 100 companies. It also analyses additional benefits to support working parents, such as fertility leave, pregnancy loss support and shared parental leave schemes. Each company receives a score out of 10.

Aviva attained a triple 10 score across maternity, paternity and adoption leave, offering employees six months of full pay across the board. Lem-uhn also singled out Aviva’s policy giving all UK parents half a day of additional leave to support their child’s first day at a new school and the option to take up to 35 hours of pro-rated, paid leave per year, as well as 35 hours of urgent time off for dependents. They can also take up to three months of unpaid leave.

The survey found JD Sports scored the lowest, offering employees just three weeks of paid maternity and adoption leave. Lem-uhn also says the company offers minimal benefits tailored towards working parents. Rightmove and Ocado are also highlighted for having no clear outline on adoptive leave policies and offering a less balanced split of maternal and paternal leave.  Another company singled out is Coca-Cola, which gives UK employees 12 weeks maternity leave and six weeks paternity and adoption leave – which Lem-uhn says equates to 78% less paid leave than the FTSE 100 average.

Read more here.

Call for national summit on mental health at work

Nine out of 10 adults in the UK experienced high or extreme levels of stress last year and 20% of workers needed to take time off work due to poor mental health caused by pressure or stress, according to a new report.

The Burnout Report by Mental Health UK shows 35% of those surveyed for the report face high or extreme levels of stress at work and nearly half say their employer does not have a plan to identify and support people who are dealing with chronic stress.

The organisation says that, while burnout and stress are not mental health conditions and stress in moderation can be helpful,  severe stress poses a threat to both physical and mental health. It adds that stress is not confined to the workplace and can be exacerbated by debt, fear of losing their home or livelihood, pressures around parenting, ill health and worries about the future.

Read more here. 

More women in work

Women are continuing to increase their hours while men are reducing theirs, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Figures released this week show the changing nature of the workforce. Between 1998 and 2022, average weekly hours worked fell by 1.3 hours, reflecting a significant fall for men aged 25 to 49 years who work full time which are not sufficient to offset increases in women’s hours.

The ONS says average hours have also fallen because there are more women and older workers in the workforce due in part to pension and benefit changes and they are more likely to work part time.

While the same downward trend has also been noted since 2019, the proportion of female workers working full time has increased which the ONS puts down to greater flexibility in working arrangements in part, particularly during the pandemic years ie remote working during lockdowns and hybrid since.

Report highlights health risks for older workers from cost of living crisis

Nine in 10 over-50s say they were worried about the cost-of-living increases to some extent, with people aged 50-59, those who are more disadvantaged, from minoritised ethnic groups, living with long term health conditions and unpaid carers most likely to report being severely affected, according to a report by Age UK.

The new report ‘We have to take it one day at a time’, part of Age UK’s new campaign ‘Spread the Warmth’, also found that three in four (75%) over-50s said they have been turning down their heating and/or reducing the hours they use their heating.

When it comes to health, two in five (40%) over-50s said they were worried they wouldn’t be able to heat their home enough this winter. Nearly one in five (19%) said they were worried they would not be able to eat enough this winter. More than one in five (22%) of people aged 50-59 are worried about being able to afford their prescriptions. More than one in 10 said they were worried about being able to afford care and support. And almost a third (31%) said their health had got worse in the last 12 months, with three in five (59%) saying an existing health condition had got worse.

Read more here.

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